Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family

A few months ago, I caught Ruth Madoff, Andrew Madoff, and Catherine Hooper (Andrew's fiancee) on The Today Show. They were promoting their new book, Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family, and I was fascinated. Both Andrew and Ruth were claiming to know absolutely nothing of Bernie's crimes. How was it possible? Was it even possible? I placed the book on reserve at the library, and last week it became available.

I devoured it, and less than 24 hours after I picked it up, I was finished.

(Spoiler alerts after the jump).

The book is predominately written from Catherine's perspective, which adds a unique and somewhat removed twist on the tale - it's almost as if she's less invested, and she probably is. At first I found her narration kind of opportunistic, and almost social-climbing, as if she was hollering "I am part of this family!" and there were definitely moments throughout the book that I felt that way. Most of the time, however, I felt sympathetic towards her - she was involved with Andrew well before the scandal touched her life, and perhaps more importantly, the rest of her life is completely entwined with the Madoffs. (For example, Andrew has been separated from his first wife for years and years, but because his finances are still under scrutiny - and frozen! - he is not able to sever the financial ties between him and his ex and therefore his divorce cannot be finalized, and he cannot legally marry Catherine).

While most sections are from Catherine's POV, there is a remarkable amount of insight in to Ruth's world. Interestingly, she was more wounded by Bernie's infidelity than his ponzi scheme. My heart hurt for her throughout the book. If she was truly in the dark about her husbands actions, then she was very, very clearly another of his victims.

The narration jumps around - telling stories from Andrew and his brother Mark's childhood, to Ruth's memories of the first days and years of marriage. While the plot jumps around a bit, it's not hard to read. The climax of the book is probably the arrest of Bernie Madoff. The narration continues after, telling of the fallout of his arrest, of Andrew's relationship with his brother, Mark, and of Mark's suicide.

It was hard to read about the destruction that Bernie's actions left - his 70 year-old brother-in-law and sister-in-law being left with nothing and forced out of retirement and in to work as taxicab drivers, etc. Simply heartbreaking. I can understand the venom his victims must feel toward him.

The other thing I feel I should mention is that the book is very obviously not without agenda. You turn each page feeling like Catherine and the Madoffs are trying to sell you something - and they are. They want you to believe that they had nothing to do with Bernie's crimes, and they want the public opinion to stop being against them. They are drawing a clear line in the sand - telling of how dominating and unkind Bernie was as a father and husband.

I'm still not sure if Andrew, Mark and Ruth knew anything about Bernie's scheme, but if (and that's a big IF) they were as clueless as they say, they are among Bernie's largest victims.

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